Thursday, May 31, 2007

LOST




Before we begin, this post should be ignored if you've never seen Lost and have any plans on watching it in the future. I highly recommend renting the DVDs and then shutting down your life for a week to watch every episode. It is so very worth it. But, if you know what happens going into it, the impact is greatly lessened. So for your future pleasure, ignore this post and come back to it later after having watched the first three seasons. The fourth season won't start until February '08, so you have plenty of time.

At the end of 2006, I recapped the first half of Lost's season (more accurately, the six-episode mini-season they threw at us in the fall) thusly...

"Sigh....ok, here's the thing. I love Lost. It's my favourite show. I'm one of those people who is totally hooked, who goes on message boards immediately after the episode, and will get into a discussion about theories and characters at the drop of the hat. This summer, in fact, when I was subletting my room, the girl who rented to me had a Lost screensaver on her computer, thus sparking a seemingly innocent 'Oh, do you like Lost?' conversation. I'm pretty sure we talked about the show more than we actually talked about the room I would stay in for the next three months.

That said, the 'fall season' of Lost has been kind of disappointing. What used to be the best ensemble drama on TV has been whittled down to the Jack-Kate-Sawyer and the Others show, with occasional guest appearances by the other 12 members of the cast. They really need to reunite the main three with the rest of the castaways, and quickly. It's frustrating that, six episodes in, we still don't know virtually anything new about the Others, besides the fact that they have a suburban village on the main island and they have their main base on a second island. I'm not one of those 'I need to know every answer NOW' people, but man, throw us a frickin' bone here. I'd like to see at least one of the central mysteries of the show (the numbers, the smoke monsters, the Others, the Dharma Initiative, how the castaways are all connected, the giant foot statue, who would win a bikini showdown between Yunjin Kim and Evangeline Lilly) answered before the season is out."

Well, as it turned out, they didn't entirely answer any of these questions. But it didn't matter, since it all turned out to be awesome. After the stinkbomb of the series in the 'Jack flashes back to when he got his tattoos' episode that made me want to throw things at my TV, Lost came up with twelve great episodes in a row. The episode directly prior to the Jack fiasco also happened to be one of the very best in the series' history -- Desmond's flashes back in time. After seeing its ratings take a hit in the 10-11 PM slot, word of mouth slowly grew as the season progressed and Lost was once again a top-shelf hit by the time of its (outstanding) season finale. Even the American Idol finale (the second hour of which was up against the Lost finale's first hour) took a hit in the ratings, which many critics attributed to the high interest in Lost's conclusion.

Here are my eight (OMG ONE OF THE NUMBERS!!!!!!!11111) observations about the season.....

1. Things were answered. Ok, we still don't know what the monster is. Or who built the foot statue. Or if there is any reason to the connections between the castaways. We know a lot of the whos, whats and hows of Dharma and the Others, but very few of the whys. And sadly, the bikini showdown is still a non-starter. But a lot of other questions were answered, and in a way that made me confident that when the final answers are given on this show, it's going to be worthwhile. Perhaps no better example of this was the episode about Hurley finding the van. It seemed like a nice enough filler episode, a bit of a break from the Kate/Jack/Sawyer triangle and the drama with the Others. Later in the season, however, we find that the corpse in the van wasn't just a random Dharma worker -- it was Ben's father. And then Hurley used said van in the unspeakably cool beach rescue scene in the finale. This seemingly minor episode served a major plot point. Then there was the infamous 'Expose' episode, a.k.a. the Paulo and Nikki flashback show. No matter what you thought of the characters or their demise, I was impressed with how the clues left in previous episodes paid off in this single show. Stuff like Paulo in the Pearl station bathroom even ended up being part of the plot.

We also learned, in no short order, the following: the real world as we know it still exists. Penny Widmore is actively trying to find the island. Desmond did, in fact, have the ability to predict the future and wasn't just having crazy hallucinations. The Others know of at least one thing (sonics) that can seemingly hurt the Monster. The island's healing properties work better on some (Locke, Mikhail) than on others (Ben, the characters who are dead). Danielle is actually Alex's mother. Claire and Jack are, in fact, siblings. Locke was paralyzed when his scumbag father pushed him out of a window and down eight stories. The scumbag father was also the real Sawyer that tore James Ford's family apart. The castaways are alive, and not in purgatory. Jin is the father of Sun's baby, though she did have an affair with Bald Korean Guy. Women who conceive on the island die about 4-5 months into the pregnancy. The 'Hostiles' the Dharma Initiative was fighting included Richard Alpert. The polar bears were on the island due to their being kept in captivity for testing by Dharma. Several million dollars worth of diamonds are buried with Paulo and Nikki. Naomi, whomever she was or whomever she was connected with, had some connection with Penny Widmore since she had the picture of Desmond and Pen with her in her backpack. Sayid is right about everything. The Others have or had contact with the outside world, as evidenced by the Flame station and the Red Sox World Series footage. The Others also have vast financial resources through Mittelos Bioscience and Herarat Airlines, whatever these companies actually are, and they also have dossiers on each of the castaways. These dossiers include information that isn't readily known, such as Sawyer killing that crab shack owner in Australia two nights before the flight. Sawyer has a daughter. The Others are apparently under the thrall of a mysterious being called Jacob, who only Ben and Locke can seemingly hear. Kate used to be married. Jack got his tattoos in Thailand (*punches self in face at memory of that awful episode*). Desmond wanted to be a monk. There are spiders on the island that can paralyze you with their bite for upwards of six hours, and you're paralyzed to the point that you appear to be dead. Ethan and Goodwin were the Others' surgeons. Goodwin and Juliet were a couple, presumably using birth control up the wazoo to prevent Juliet from becoming pregnant and thus dead on the island. Desmond cares a whole lot about what Penelope's dickhead of a father thinks of him. Ben was not born on the island, and not a doctor as he claims. In fact, pretty much everything Ben says is a lie. Tthe Hostiles overthrew Dharma largely due to Ben's plotting. There's a volcano on the island. The Others have a brainwashing room. The Others had a submarine, which may or may not have been used to transport people from the mainland. Some Others (Richard Alpert and Ethan, particularly) can go back and forth between the island and the real world. According to both Naomi and Anthony Cooper, the world believes Flight 815 to have crashed, and a plane was found in the ocean with no survivors. Hurley's dad was an asshole. Ben's dad was an asshole. Kate's mom was a bitch. Charlie, Nikki, Paulo, Eko and most of the Others are dead. Sawyer the horndog somehow never noticed the smoking hot young woman within the castaways ("Who the hell is Nikki?") for three months. The cord on the beach led to an underwater Dharma station. And, most importantly, we learned that Jack and Kate get off of the island and are alive and semi-well in early 2007, as evidenced by the date on that newspaper Jack was so upset about.

Who says nothing happens on this show?

2. Anthony Cooper's arrival on the island via the so-called 'Magic Box' opens up another set of odd mysteries. If the island can 'summon' people and objects from the real world, this explains Kate's horse, Sayid's cat, Jack's dead father and some of the other visions on the show that had been previously been assumed to be either hallucinations or perhaps a morphing action of the Monster. But in this case, it really was a flesh and blood Anthony Cooper. Who, by the way, supported Naomi's story that the flight 815 passengers were thought to be dead, but we'll get to that later. Back to the morphing Monster for a moment. It has been generally assumed that the Monster has been taking the forms of some of these visions, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this is fan speculation rather than based on actual fact. What we know is that when the Monster first confronted Eko, we saw images from Eko's past reflected in the smoke, which led many to believe it was 'scanning' him for information (when the Monster was chasing Kate and Juliet, it also seemed to take their picture, so to speak, with a trio of bright flashes). Later, when Eko's brother Yemi appeared on the island and then the Monster quickly showed up, it was presumed that this was the Monster taking the form of Yemi, which it knew about due to its earlier scan of Eko.

Here's why I think the 'Monster Morphing' theory doesn't fit

* Ben saw a vision of his dead mother outside of his window as a boy. His home was within the sonic fence, which we know that the Monster can't breach. So the Monster couldn't have been disguised as Mrs. Linus, since it couldn't have been outside Ben's home.

* When did the Monster have time to scan everyone? It isn't just the scanned Eko that's having visions. To our knowledge, the only characters that have directly confronted the Monster are Eko and Locke. We can add Juliet and Kate to that list after season three, but Kate saw her horse long before that.

* The monster isn't the island itself --- it is the island's security system, as Danielle described it. Of course, Danielle is off her rocker, so who knows what the deal is with her.

I think something else is causing the visions on the island. Maybe Jacob, maybe the 'white light' that Locke said he saw (a second Monster?), maybe a whole lot of hashish. Who knows. Maybe the island itself is the magic box that can materialize your wishes, and it's simply a case of "be careful what you wish for." I kind of hope this isn't it, since I'd rather the solution to the show not be, "The Island is a twisted version of Fantasy Island." If Ricardo Montalban is cast as Jacob, I'm out of here.

3. The Others ended up working really well as villains. I'll be honest, I was sick to death of the fucking Others after that infamous Jack episode (it was called Stranger in a Strange Land, by the way). I was happy that our exposure to them was diminished in the second half of the season, since what made the Others so menacing in the first two seasons was that we didn't know what we were dealing with. Seeing them in their suburban barracks reduced that menace substantially. But once they were once against presented to us in smaller snippets, the menace returned. It culminated in that wild Ben flashback episode, which I was looking forward to as much as any episode in the show's history. One of the characters I'm most fascinated to learn more about is Richard Alpert, who is apparently either really into Oil of Olay or else he's somehow immune to aging. He's one of the few Others that survived the season finale, so he's sure to turn up a lot next season. Juliet ended up being another great addition to the cast, with the "One Of Us" episode (her second flashback) being one of the best of the season.

Of course, most of the reason for the Others' resurgence is that Michael Emerson may be the best actor on the show. He is so perfect as the manipulative, weaselly Ben that it isn't hard to see why the producers expanded the character's role from two episodes to being a full cast member. Emerson totally deserves an Emmy nomination, and quite possibly a win. By the season finale, my god, I was very nearly pumping my fist when Jack beat the hell out of Ben. Then, I actually was pumping my fist during the most awesome two minutes in Lost history....

4. The Beach Attack. Hurley driving in like the goddamn cavalry and plowing over Pryce. Sayid snapping the Other goon's neck with his legs, a la Jack Bauer. Then, the coup de grace, Sawyer deciding that he was through being nice and shooting Tom in cold blood. This was just straight-up awesome. After all of the crap the Losties had taken from the Others over three years, it was cathartic to see the Others' plan just totally backfire. Of course, if Naomi's people are actually 'the bad guys' and it turns out the Others were just misguidedly trying to help all along, well, that's what makes this show cool.

5. I can cut the producers a bit of slack for the mini-season now that I know a bit more about its conception. Apparently, the original plan was to have the first six episodes be ENTIRELY Jack, Kate, Sawyer in the Others camp. The episodes, going by flashback, would've been Jack (the season premier), Sun/Jin (the story of them and Sayid on the boat, which would've been our only exposure to any of the other cast), Sawyer (the episode of him finding out about the second island), Kate (the ep where they escape), Juliet (episode seven, where Kate and Sawyer sail away and Juliet abets their escape) and Jack (Stranger in a Strange Land, which hopefully would've sucked less). With those out of the way, the first episode of the post-hiatus season would've been the Locke flashback with him waking up in the jungle in the aftermath of the Hatch explosion. Then we would've had Desmond's flashes and Hurley finding the van, upon which Kate and Sawyer rejoined the camp and the season would've continued basically as we saw it.

The monkey wrench in this plan was that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted to leave the show. It was either because a) he was tired of being so far away from home, which hit home for him when both his parents died in the year he was in Hawaii filming Lost or b) because everyone in the cast, particularly Terry O'Quinn, thought he was a dick and impossible to work with. These are the official reasons and the internet rumour reasons, so take it with a grain of salt. The producers figured that there was no point in keeping an unhappy actor around longer than they had to, so they pushed his death episode up into the six-episode block, which logistically meant they had to include the rest of the cast into the first few episodes as well. The end result ended up being pretty choppy, as several characters (Claire, Hurley, Jin/Sun aside from their flashback episode, Sayid, Desmond, Charlie, Nikki, Paulo, even Locke and Eko to some extent) ended up with little to do at the start of the year. The original plan would've worked better, since it would've kept the storyline focus on one specific part of the Lostverse without the "when are they going to get to the fireworks factory?" aspect of wanting to know what was going on with the characters back at the camp.

Getting off-topic, the story of AAA leaving is yet another reason why I think Lost's final answer, whatever it is, isn't overly character specific. Someone like Locke may play a key role in the island mystery, but it won't be all about him. Or Jack. Or Walt. Or anyone. There are too many real-world factors involved, namely the fact that these characters are played by real actors with real egos, lives, or a hundred different things. Killing Libby last season had everything to do with Cynthia Watros getting a DUI, not because of the obviously horseshit reason that the writers couldn't think of anywhere to go with her --- she hadn't even had a flashback, for god's sake. The producers have been forthright in the fact that their casting was very malleable --- Sayid, Jin, Sun, Claire as a regular, Desmond, Ben and even Jack weren't in the original pilot script. Well, Jack was, but (get this) he was going to be killed halfway through after setting him up as the big hero in the first half of the episode. Apparently ABC execs thought Jack was too strong a character to lose, which led to the casting of Matthew Fox and the assumption of the character as the de facto lead of the show. There are all kinds of fun Lost casting stories around. Jorge Garcia and Dom Monaghan originally auditioned for the role of Sawyer, who was originally conceived as more urbane. The character of Charlie was going to be that of an aging rock star (think Bill Nighy in Love Actually), and one of the people they had in mind for this role was Naveen Andrews, who's actually British. Yunjin Kim auditioned for the role of Kate, and the producers liked her so much they created the role of Sun (and, subsequently, Jin). If the plan to kill Jack in the pilot had gone as planned, Jack would've been played by Michael Keaton, of all people. The trick would've been that the promos would've been, "Lost, this fall on ABC, starring Michael Keaton!" only to have him killed 60 minutes in. It would've been the TV equivalent to Janet Leigh billed as the star of Psycho. But anyway, I have faith that the producers have crafted their plot so that the loss of one character wouldn't cripple it completely. If Matt Fox was lost at sea in a plane crash tomorrow, Lost would still be able to go on.

6. Charlie's dead. As soon as Desmond said he was having flashes of Charlie's death, I would've just about bet my house on Charlie surviving the season. It seemed like such an obvious story swerve that the surprise came when Charlie actually did kick the bucket in the finale. Now, I tried as hard as anyone to stay unspoiled for the finale, but I accidentally read one item that said Dominic Monaghan and Evangeline Lilly recently bought a house together in the Bahamas. I started to think, "Hmmm, will they actually kill Charlie off? Or, maybe the real twist is that Kate will die in the finale?" In any case, this death carried more weight than any other on Lost, since this was one of the care characters that we've followed since day one. Kudos to the writers and actors (though Charlie and Desmond's hands-against-the-glass thing was kind of cheesy) for making it work.

7. Jacob. Ok, now onto the big stuff. What in the blue hell is Jacob? Here's my crazy theory, which relates specifically to what I think the plot for next season will focus on --- Jacob is Jack. There is some kind of warp in reality or time that prevents people from finding the island, but Jack is able to just barely get into a sliver of it to manifest himself back. However, the warp sends him into limbo, unable to fully manifest himself in the time period. Ben finds him and somehow traps him within that cabin, and thus Jacob's "help me" message to Locke was actually Jack trying to get himself freed. That would be quite a twist if it turned out the Others' messiah or whatever was actually Jack all along. Whatever Jacob is, a major hint is the circle of powder/sand/volcanic ash that surrounds his cabin. The idea of a circle trapping an evil spirit is prevalent in native lore, so maybe this is some version of that. Hell, maybe the ash animates itself and becomes the Smoke Monster, and thus Smokey is just Jacob's personal security system.

Whatever Jacob ends up being, this particular scene was one of my favourite of the season. That episode (The Man Behind The Curtain) was one of the higher-rated Losts in recent memory, as a lot of casual fans tuned in specifically to get answers about the Others. I got a lot of MSN messages after that episode along the lines of, "Hey Mark, you still watch Lost. What's the deal with this Jacob?" I think a lot of the island's mystery will be revealed once we discover what or who Jacob exactly is, so I'd expect to not get any answers until series five at the earliest. Personally, if the Jack-Jacob thing isn't true, I predict Jacob will team up with Hurley for a remake of Jake and the Fatman.

8. The flash-forward. If this post seems to be unfocused, blame the season finale. The revelation that the flashbacks were actually flash forwards became the big topic that overwhelmed any discussion of what Lost was last season, and refocused it on what Lost will become next season. I have no idea what the premiere will look like in February. Will the show now be set in the present, and the flashbacks showing how they got off the island? Will the plot be Jack trying to get the band back together, so to speak, and convince everyone that they have to go back to the island to correct some wrong? Will the show continue on its course on the island, and the flash-forward was just a hint as to how things will end up?

If they're going to leave the island, they can't do it just yet. There is still way too much unfinished business with the details of the rescue, Danielle and Alex, the other Others who went off to the temple with Alpert, the Monster, etc. to leave behind. Also, I can't help but think that abandoning the island as the show's main setting would be good for Lost. Not only is the real-time/flashback gimmick one of the more continually inventive structures in TV history, some of the characters still have unexplored issues in their flashbacks. I can see next season perhaps featuring flash-forwards to see how the characters are adjusting to post-island life. Actually, make that flash-forwards for the characters who DO leave the island --- I have to think that Jack's guilt is at least partially based upon some people being forcibly left behind or kept in captivity for some reason. One interesting note about the ending of the finale is that whatever Jack is feeling guilty about, Kate seems somewhat okay about it. She looked in good shape, had a car, and (here's an important fact) wasn't in jail for that outstanding murder charge. She also has one of those Oceanic 'golden tickets,' which presumably the airline gave as penance for the crash, so she was known as one of the Oceanic 815 survivors and didn't just return to society under the radar. If Kate seems to be able to live with what happened on the island, maybe other survivors (if there are any) feel the same way and will be as hesitant as she to return.

So, without totally knowing what will happen via flashbacks, flash forwards, or Walt's Flash comic, here are the ongoing issues for each character that could be settled next season.

JULIET
Past: We haven't seen a flashback yet about Juliet's father being a dick, like every other castaway father on the show. So there's that.
Present: Going by Lost's habit of cruel irony, Juliet (whose every action is done with the motive of getting off the island to see her sister and nephew) will probably end up stuck there. It makes less storyline sense to have her be back on the mainland, since she has no impetus to return. If Naomi's people end up being 'evil' because they hate the Others....I think Juliet would be okay with the Others being tortured for the rest of their days. I'm interested to see where they go with Juliet's character this season, since if the Others are going to be a reduced factor, she sort of doesn't really have a reason to be on the show anymore. Just saying, is all.
Future: Like I said, I'd say it's unlikely that Juliet is in the mainland 'future' that we saw in the finale. Maybe Jack feels for leaving her behind, and also for semi-using her while he was clearly in love with Kate. I guess that makes Juliet the 'Other' woman. BWAH HA HA HA! Why don't I have a CW sitcom yet?

SAYID
Past: We haven't seen a flashback yet about Sayid's father being a dick, like every other castaway father on the show. We've seen Nadia a few different times in other people's flashbacks (she buys a house from Locke, Charlie saves her from being mugged), and according to that CIA agent in Sayid's flashback from a couple of seasons ago, she's living in California. But Sayid initially mentioned to Rousseau that Nadia was dead because of him. So, we need to get that cleared up. One would think that Sayid wouldn't hook up with Shannon if he truly believed his long-lost love to be alive, but that storyline made no sense anyway. I read somewhere that the plot was suggested by Naveen Andrews, since it would "shock middle America" to see an Iraqi man hook up with a blond princess. Naveen Andrews must be the most persuasive man alive. "Hey, how about a storyline where I get to sleep with Maggie Grace?" He already got the producers to make Sayid the universally-liked kick-ass former solider. At this rate, I'm expecting a flashback to Sayid accepting a Nobel Prize for physics for balancing a 15-pound weight on his cock.
Present: At present, Sayid is back on the beach, probably listening to Jin use the Korean phrase for 'busted that guy's fuckin' neck' over and over again. There is no way that Sayid would sell everyone out just to get safety for himself. Absolutely no way. If some of the Lostaways are still stuck on the island for whatever reason, I would bet good money that Sayid is one of them. I'm surprised he so readily believed Naomi's story, however.
Future: Perhaps in 2007, Sayid is working at CTU. Actually, that would be a good way to freshen up 24 -- switch Sayid for Jack Bauer. Jack has massive fatherhood issues, so he'd fit right in on Lost. Sayid can turn out to be Morris O'Brien's long-lost cousin or something. I'm really excited about this idea. I'm starting work tonight on a romantic comedy starring Naveen Andrews and Mary-Lynn Rajskub.

HURLEY
Past: We still need to learn the details of the deck accident that put him in the mental institution. Also, Hurley seems the logical character through which we can finally get the answers about Libby. Of all the things on Lost that would piss me off if they never got answered, Libby is near the top of my list. Why on why did Cynthia Watros not just call a damn cab?
Present: Obviously, Hurley wants to get off of the island. Getting the van started seems to have been the turning point in his 'curse,' so maybe he wants to go back and start spending that lotto money.
Future: If Hurley is the kind of guy who will go to Australia just to track down some wacky numbers, he seems like the time who would go back to the island to avenge a wrong. But he also seems like the kind of guy who would've tried to help his friends when it happened, rather than just go back to society like nothing occurred. Maybe Hurley will end up funding Jack's efforts to re-locate the island.

BEN
Past: What happened to his little girlfriend? We didn't see her dying in the Purge. My theory is it's Rousseau. We also could use more info about how Ben rose to power in the Others, what happened with him and Alpert in the jungle and how he met Jacob.
Present: Ben is sleazy enough that he could see that the gig is up and he'll try to get Naomi's people to rescue him as well, but he seemed genuinely afraid of them. Maybe is Naomi's people are evil, they'll punish the castaways by keeping some of them on the island, and sending the Others off of the island.
Future: If I had to make a guess, Ben is the guy whose funeral Jack attends in the future. Jo___ ___antham (the apparent suicide victim that internet fansites identified from the newspaper obit Jack was holding in the finale) could be an assumed name that he takes to avoid detection in the real world. and his funeral would be unattended because nobody knows him. There was also a book sitting next to the casket as part of the funeral display -- Ben's diary? He could've finally gotten depressed about his fate and committed suicide. If Ben is the corpse, it definitely explains why Kate didn't attend and was surprised that Jack did. Here's another thing to consider about that newspaper clipping; it wasn't just an obituary, it was a separate item. So whomever it was that died had to be a notable enough person to have a small brief devoted to their passing in the L.A. Times. Even if it was a suicide in a downtown hotel, enough people die in L.A. that it isn't entirely big news. This makes me think it was one of the Oceanic 815 survivors, who would've all become semi-celebrities after their miraculous survival.

KATE
Past: I always found it odd that the U.S. Marshal's office spent so much time and energy into chasing her down. I mean, The Fugitive set the bar pretty high for crazy police manpower devoted for one person, but the hunt for Kate has to come pretty close. Her dad was just some drunken yutz in Iowa. Why did that marshal who accompanied her on the plane seem to get such a personal thrill out of taking her down? Was he just creepy? Maybe we'll learn of some other crime that Kate pulled off that would require such special treatment. Oh, also, her husband.
Present: Well, we know how her story goes for the time being. She gets off of the island. She has come to terms with whatever she did to get off of the island.
Future: If the storyline ends up being all of them trying to get back to Lost island, I can pretty much guarantee a future scene where Kate shows up at the last minute and says, 'Got room for one more?' while Jack smirks and answers with 'Thought you'd never show up.' Yes, that seems appropriately cliche enough. Otherwise, I'm interested to see what her deal is in the future.

SUN AND JIN
Past: There's always a chance we can find out that Jin's father wasn't really his father. After all, his mom was a prostitute and she sort of opened up that line of question herself. She also opened up her vagina in the first place, but that's neither here nor there. Maybe we'll find out that Christian Shepherd is Jin's father too. As for Sun, we've already learned about her affair, her knowledge of her dad's crimes, and her ability to threaten her mother-in-law. Her next flashback can be negotiating an armistice with Kim Jong-Il.
Present: They want off the island as much as anyone, because if they don't, Sun is dead.
Future: If any of the characters are off the island in the future, Sun would have to be one of them or else she's done for within a few months in island time. Perhaps Jin makes some deal with Naomi's people and stays behind so that Sun can leave. Jack can find her in LA raising Baby Kwon, and she'll join the cause in order to go back to save her husband. A jump in into the future would also allow Daniel Dae Kim to finally be able to speak English on the show.

LOCKE
Past: Now that we know how he was paralyzed, that was the last major bit of knowledge we needed to get out of Locke's pre-island life. I'm glad that he actually was paralyzed and now we know for sure the island has healing powers. I was worried he would only be in the wheelchair due to being psychosomatic or having a mental block, and it would be a huge copout. But anyway, though Locke has the best flashback episodes of anyone on the show, I think we get it: he is a gullible schmuck.
Present: There is no way on god's earth that Locke will be dragged off of the island. no matter if Naomi's people have a team of wild horses at their disposal. He skulked off into the jungle to hide so that they won't be able to find him. Next season might be Locke turning into island Rambo to take out Naomi's team. He'll eventually start riding the Smoke Monster around like Bastian on the dog thing in the Neverending Story.
Future: Locke could be a candidate for Jo___ ___antham, killing himself out of despair for not making it back to the island. But why would he change his name? Something in the clipping would've mentioned his paralyzation, however, and I don't think his funeral would've been so sparsely attended. Helen (Katey Sagal) would've gone, maybe some co-workers from his box factory.

SAWYER
Past: I guess we could learn about the infamous 'Tampa Job.' It'd give Robert Patrick an excuse to guest-star again. Otherwise, I think we've covered all of the majors in Sawyer's life.
Present: I would guess Sawyer would want to leave, but he's also pretty bull-headed. If he's suddenly got some issue with Kate or fears raising a kid with her, he might want to stay on the island. He's also apt to smell a rat with Naomi's team and announce that he's not leaving with them.
Future: Sawyer could be the 'he' that Kate said she had to get back to. Or, and this could be a longshot, he's Jo___ ___antham. He could've had his name changed since returning to the mainland. He's also not a Los Angeles resident, and surely someone would've said "Hey, Jo Antham used to be James Ford, so let's send his corpse back to Alabama."

CLAIRE
Past: After just three flashbacks in three seasons, there's still loads we can learn about Claire. She is the biggest open book of any of the Lost regulars.
Present: She'll obviously want to leave the island to take care of Aaron. She probably also would feel like she owes it to Charlie, since he sacrificed himself specifically to get her off the island.
Future: Desmond's flash included an image of her getting on a helicopter, so I think we can somewhat safely presume she makes it off the island. Unless that helicopter was a Chopper To Nowhere. Maybe that's part of the reason Jack is so broken up in the future --- he has to go back to rescue his half-sister and half-nephew. If she is actually back in the real world, the fact that she had a toddler is reason enough that she won't be in a hurry to traipse halfway across the world to a mysterious island. I think Claire might be the character best suited to be a publicity hound post-rescue. You know, she makes a big cottage industry over being a 'Flight 815 Survivor,' and goes on Oprah to talk about her harrowing experience, being an unwed mother, having her baby on the island, and the heroic rock star who sacrificed himself to save her. That would be pretty funny.

DESMOND
Past: We're almost guaranteed to see an episode that tells us why Desmond ended up in military prison. The most underrated funny moment of last season was that they devoted an entire storyline more or less to tell us why Desmond always calls everyone 'brother.' That might've been even less useful information than Jack's tattoos, but since Desmond is awesome, we'll let it slide.
Present: Desmond is the only one who knows that Naomi's boat has no connection to Penelope and aren't the saviours they claim to be. I don't think he'll get likely to accept any help from them any time soon, so poor Des may have to find another hatch to hide in. I'm curious why we never saw a scene when Desmond asked Naomi, "So, where'd you get the pic of me and my girlfriend?" Now that Charlie is dead, will Desmond's flashes continue? Will they start forecasting someone else's death, or will they start showing him important things, like baseball scores? Desmond's main storyline next season will be going to Biff's casino to get the Almanac back.
Future: Desmond is the loose end of Lost. It's possible the Others didn't know who he was because he wasn't on the flight manifest. He's neither on the beach nor at the radio station, so when 'rescue' comes, they might not find him immediately, and give him time to get away or maybe meet up with Locke in the jungle. Since I'm firmly in the belief that time travel (or, at least, misplaced time) has a major role in the show, Desmond's ability to see the future will have a major impact on the plot. Actually, my thought for the big surprise ending of the finale was something like Naomi mentioning to someone (say, Hurley) about how well everyone is doing in the midst of the crash. Hurley would answer with "Yeah, it's been a tough three months," and Naomi would get an odd look on her face. "Three months? It's 2007. Your plane crashed two and a half years ago." WOMP LOST

JACK
Past: Hey, how about a flashback where we examine Jack's hero complex? Never seen one of those before.
Present: We know Jack leaves the island, and something will happen that makes him feel really guilty about doing so. Your guess is as good as mine.
Future: Well, we see what happens to Jack in the future. He grows a crazy-ass beard and re-enacts the last two weeks of Chris Farley's life. Here's what I found interesting about Jack this season: before Locke blew up the sub, it appeared as if Jack was truly going to just leave the island with Juliet. He had made a deal for himself and was high-tailing it back to civilization. This was fascinating. He basically did the same thing that Michael did (though minus the murders), but at least Michael had the excuse he was doing it to save his son. Jack was doing it to save his own ass. His excuse that he would 'send for help' was obviously weak, as Kate called him on it. I find Jack to be a much better character when he isn't just the generic leader. Maybe he does something akin to this but since he can't find the island again (i.e. the maps in his apartment), he can't send for help and is traumatized.

MICHAEL AND WALT
Past: What happened after they took off in that boat?
Present: Er, what are they doing now, after leaving that boat?
Future: If Lost is going to be at least partially set in 2007 now, it opens the door for post-puberty Malcolm David Kelley to rejoin the cast. Seriously, puberty hit this kid like a ton of bricks. When he was standing over Locke in that pit, he looked about 30 years old. I loved the scene, though, since it was basically the producers telling us that they haven't forgotten about Walt, and he's still an important part of the story. As for Michael, I'm not sure. He's also a strong candidate to be Jo___ ___antham. Presuming he actually did sail to safety, he couldn't have returned to society in his old life due to too many questions. He takes an assumed name, then eventually kills himself out of guilt over murdering Libby and Ana Lucia. Nobody goes to his funeral because everyone thinks 'Michael Dawson' died in the plane crash. If Michael and Walt do return, they'd be good candidates to join Jack's mission to get back to the island. Michael would see it as righting a past wrong.

NEW CHARACTERS
There's also the possibility that some new faces could join the cast. Maybe some of Naomi's people can be next season's answer to Ben and Juliet -- hell, before Locke put a knife in her back, I thought Naomi could join the cast. Maybe Danielle or Alex or Karl? Penelope? Possibly Rose and Bernard could get bumped up to full-time status. Maybe Jo__ ___antham is a character we haven't even met yet. Or, maybe it's Jacob and we're all just misreading the JA as JO.


So, in summation, Lost is a good show and you should watch it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

2007 TV RECAP

Once again, these are only the shows I regularly watch, with one exception. If you complain that Sopranos, or Heroes, on House, or one of the CSIs, etc. aren't on the list, it's because I don't watch them for one reason or another. Simple as that.


THE AMAZING RACE: ALL-STARS
Having only started watching TAR a few years ago, many of the All-Star teams were new to me, which made this more or less like just another season. Why is it that I've watched six different series of this show now and only been really satisfied with one of the winning teams (Uchenna and Joyce)? Even Survivor has a better win percentage than that, and I hate half of the people on that show.


AMERICAN DAD
I've gone from hating this show, to thinking it was the funniest animated program on TV, to being kind of indifferent. It's just not something that demands I watch it every week. Perhaps the next season can pick things back up.


AMERICAN IDOL
I don't actually watch AI, but surely I had to comment on the fact that the girl who won is about 6'3. She dwarfed Ryan Seacrest and looked like she could beat the hell out of him. Puberty hit this poor lass like a Mack truck.


DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
Often a show goes downhill once one of the characters has a baby --- this is even its own category on Jump the Shark. But in this case, Marcia Cross actually having a baby in real life was the cause for this season hitting the bricks. Her delivery forced the season-long mystery to be fast-forwarded to about the two-thirds mark, which is shame since it was actually really interesting. The final eight episodes seemed kind of thrown together, and things didn't really get left on a particularly cliffhangery note. What the end of the season showed is that DH really needs the season-long mystery to tie it together. Without it, the show really is just a prime-time soap opera. Felicity Huffman deserves another Emmy. Actually, most of the cast did stellar work this year. DH in the hands of lesser actors would be awful.


FAMILY GUY
By now, they're even running out of pop culture moments for the cutaway gags. When it's on, it's still one of the meanest, funniest shows on TV. When it's not...yikes. You can tell the effort just isn't there in the episodes when they have one of Peter's five-minute-long fights with the chicken. I like the idea of the running gag, but five minutes out of a 22-minute show is a significant chunk. It's like the writers were thinking, "Hmm, came up a bit short this week. Ok, time for a chicken fight!"


LOST
Oh, you know this is getting its own post. Stay tuned. Namaste!


MY NAME IS EARL
One of the patterns I'm noticing about myself as I write this list is that I'm paying less and less attention to stand-alone TV shows. I'm faithfully tuned to serials like Lost and to deep comedies like The Office, but for 'miss an episode and you won't miss anything big' shows, I'm having trouble keeping interest. The one exception is My Name Is Earl. This might be the most underrated show on TV, and certainly the most underrated comedy. It's a step behind Office and 30 Rock, but not by much....maybe Earl is an A to their A-pluses. It's not totally independent from episode to episode, as the show is developing a deep roster of supporting characters and recurring gags, but for the most part, the premise of 'each episode is one item of Earl's list' is still holding strong. The show's recent Rudy spoof was amazing, in for no other reason than half the Rudy cast made cameos (and who the hell else thinks to do a Rudy spoof in 2007?). Earl also had one of the best season finales of the year, one that opens up a lot of possibilities for the next season. I'm guessing they'll let Earl out of jail after, say, six months in show-time in order to let Jaime Pressly have her baby.


THE OFFICE
So, Jim and Pam look like they're finally together. This was, as you'll recall, the denouement of the British Office's entire series (13 episodes). The American series passed that episode number ages ago, but now they're truly in uncharted waters in terms of the series' concept. I guess I should probably stop comparing the British and US versions, since the US version is entirely its own animal now, and in my opinion, just as ingenious in its execution. I'm not even worried by the increased episode total for next year (a number of hour-long episodes), since this cast and writing team can almost certainly handle it. This is yet another reason why casting a bunch of improv veterans was a brill move -- this cast know their characters so well by this point that they could probably do an episode on the fly at this point. Unlike Sam/Diane, Moonlighting, Niles/Daphne or other TV couples whose getting together took the steam out of the show, I have high hopes for Jim/Pam together doing nothing to torpedo the Office. Better they do it now than drag it out three more seasons.


SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
I'm more excited about SNL than I have been in years. This past year featured two instant classics (the Baldwin and Timberlake episodes), two really good episodes (the Barrymore and Shannon hosting gigs) and one very good episode (John C. Reilly). This is five more truly top-notch shows than SNL has had in three years. I'm loving the current move towards sketch-based comedy, as opposed to just generic spoofs of TV shows or politicians. These are the kind of skits that will be funny in 10 years, and won't be dated and unfunny by, like, tomorrow. The cast compliment each other very well. Even the musical guests were generally solid this year. I'm just outright raving here. Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.


THE SIMPSONS
Here's another old warhorse that dusted off its saddle for a good run. The first half of the season was very weak, but there were a few really good episodes in the spring. The recent 24-themed episode was particularly clever, and the kind of really good spoof the Simpsons rarely does any more. Maybe there's hope to reach 20 seasons yet.


STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP
Welcome to Cancellationville. Population: you. Matthew Perry did a remarkable job of keeping his Chandler mannerisms in check until the very last couple of episodes. I admire his restraint.


SURVIVOR
Survivor followed up one of their best seasons (Cook Islands) with Fiji, which seemed like Cook Islands redux. The tribes were way more multi-cultural than usual, though unlike in Cook Islands they didn't draw attention to it. The twist this time around, instead of the tribe split by race, was less controversial but much lamer in actual execution. Apparently, giving one tribe all kinds of food and the best camp ever will give them an edge over the tribe that has a crappy camp and is reduced to licking water off of leaves. Gee, didn't see that one coming. This twist led to literally six weeks of crappy TV, since it quickly became apparent that the 'poor' tribe had no chance in the challenges. The season's saving grace was Yau Man, a 54-year-old Asian guy who is easily one of the best people in the history of the show. He won challenges due to outthinking everyone and figuring out the most efficient way to throw spears, shoot arrows, navigate courses, etc., in spite of being about 5'5 and maybe 120 pounds (plus he was on the poor tribe, so he was physically wrecked). The other big star was the guy known as Dreamz, a formerly-homeless cheerleading coach (I can't make this up, folks), who was so unpredictable that his weekly vote usually broke up alliances, caused for surprise eliminations, and kept everyone on their toes. It was one of those situations where, on paper, the guy was playing one of the best Survivor games ever, but the charm of it was that he didn't look like he had a clue he was doing it. You've got to love the concept of a game show where playing it extremely well and playing it cluelessly are so hard to tell apart.

Overall, Survivor: Fiji was an average series of the show, but I'm looking forward to next year's China series. Will they just be one big tribe to start? Will they give everyone an immunity idol and make it a game of musical chairs? Will Jeff Probst be run over by a tank in Tiananmen Square? Only time....will tell.


30 ROCK
The funniest new show on TV by a country mile. I'm very glad NBC renewed it, and hopefully Tina Fey can keep up the pace in the second season rather than be distracted by her upcoming film projects. The only way this show could get any better was if Alec Baldwin wasn't the worst father on earth. Rumour has it he wants off the show in order to spend more time with his kid (coughcoughandpursuemovierolescoughcough), though I doubt NBC will just let him walk from his contract. If they did, however, may I suggest the name Will Arnett? He already had a guest role as a rival NBC exec, and if Baldwin walked, Arnett could just slide right in as Liz Lemon's new nemesis/would-be mentor/ally. They could even make the role of NBC director of programming a revolving door every season, given that the joke about Baldwin's character anyway is that he knows nothing about TV and his real speciality is microwave ovens. Baldwin is amazing in the role and hopefully stays, but if he didn't, in GOB we trust.


TRAILER PARK BOYS
After years of the low-fi documentary style, it's weird seeing Trailer Park Boys in HD. That aside, the show has been the funniest its been in years. The new addition of the Collins family was a great idea, and I love how this season seems to be building towards an inevitable cameo from, of all people, Patrick Swayze. And now, CONKY is back! Dear lord. Those who know me know I'm awful at impressions, with six exceptions:

* Howie Mandel
* Louie Anderson as the dad on Little Louie
* Louie Anderson as Little Louie on Little Louie
* George Costanza (only on a good day)
* Conky

The re-introduction of this character is a godsend for me. Yes! Conky!


24
The phrase 'back to the drawing board' was invented for this season of 24. What a disappointment. It was essentially a Cliff Notes of the entire series, with nearly every major plot point cribbed from a past episode. Think about it: a nuke going off, a singular villain, a president assassinated and a VP stepping in, wacky hijinks with the 25th amendment, an inter-CTU love affair (Nadia and Milo, the infinitely crappier version of Tony and Michelle), trouble in the Bauer clan, CTU invaded....it was deja vu. Hell, the last episode even ended 10 minutes early, as if the writers just said "We know it sucked, let's get out of here early." At least they didn't end the season with Jack being attacked by the Family Guy chicken. Apparently the next series will be vastly different from the previous six in terms of concept and setting, with the only consistency being Jack Bauer stopping villains. Some suggestions:

* Bring back only the popular cast members. For the love of God, don't get write off Chloe just because she's pregnant. The core of the show is Jack doing crazy stuff with only Chloe's tech support to help him. Losing Chloe would also end my dream 24 final episode of having Jack and Chloe just make out for the last five minutes. You want a shock ending? THERE's your shock ending. Keep Karen and Bill Buchanan, who are awesome. Keep Morris, if Chloe is staying, though I'm kind of indifferent towards the character. President Daniels, a.k.a the lovably crazy Powers Boothe, can return. I like the idea of a morally ambiguous president, after the virtuous David Palmer, the slimy and evil Charles Logan, terrorist food John Keeler and overall lame Wayne Palmer. God, when did DB Woodside forget to act? He used to be great on this show, and on Buffy.

* Scale things back. Keep in mind the major threat of the first season was then-Senator Palmer being targeted by an assassin. From there, to quote Anchorman, things really escalated quickly. Soon it became nuclear bombs, killer viruses, threats of world war and a hundred other things in one day. Maybe the threat in season seven can be something, like, Jack has to stop a team of kidnappers who plan to snatch the kids of several different prominent Americans in one day.

* Stick a bit closer to the real-time gimmick. This season basically forgot about it. At least in past seasons, they kept certain characters out of action for most of an episode by making locations '45 minutes away from CTU' or something. This season, everything seemed within a 10-minute driving radius.

* Have Ricky Schroeder's character die between seasons. Poochy him out of existence. That guy was by far the worst actor in the history of 24, and that's saying something for a show that once had Elisha Cuthbert in the cast.

* End the Bauer family feud. The idea of 'the bluetooth guy' being Jack's brother was ingenious. The idea of Jack's dad being so evil that he would kill his own son, Bluetooth Guy, was perhaps even more ingenious. But it just didn't work out. James Cromwell disappearing for about 15 episodes during the season due to film commitments didn't help things, since his reappearance was like, "I'm back as expected! Grrr, I still hate Jack!" Let Philip Bauer's ambiguous death be final, and not an excuse to bring him back in two years as a surprise villain.

* Use more of the show's history. For example, the villain in season three had a grudge against Jack Bauer due to the same mission that spurred Victor Drazen's hate in season one. Characters like Aaron Pierce and Mike Novick have great resonance with the audience because they've been here since the beginning, so figure out a way to incorporate them even for just an episode cameo. Granted, this might be harder to do for 24 than most shows, since so many past characters are dead. But having, for instance, Mandy and Jack Bauer cross paths again for a couple of episodes next season would be fun. Throw a bone to the longtime fans.


THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER
If Dana White is so pissed off about guys coming on the show who just want to promote themselves and aren't serious about winning, here's what he can do. Step one: do a better job of casting. He can't weed out the wannabes during the audition process? Step two: a lot of guys seem content to be 'memorable characters' with the logic that they'll stand out more on their personalities rather than their fighting ability. They're often rewarded for this with a fight on the TUF finale card. If White wants to stop this crap, stop booking them on his cards. It's that simple.

TUF5 is the first edition of the series where it feels like a reality show, rather than an actual athletic competition. It's too bad because in terms of depth of talent, this might be the strongest season yet. There are about a half-dozen guys on the show who could make really strong lightweights. I'm sticking with my preseason pick of Joe Lauzon. Figure this one out: Lauzon, a fairly unknown young fighter, knocks out the heavily-favoured Jens Pulver in a huge upset last fall. Lauzon isn't offered a full-time UFC contract, but rather is given a spot on TUF. Who's one of the coaches on the show? Jens Pulver. By the way, BJ Penn is a much worse coach than Pulver, but he is going to just rip Jens apart at the finale. I'm looking forward to the Penn/Sherk or Franca title match in November.


VERONICA MARS
And so it ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Veronica Mars has never been 'bad' at any point, but in its final episodes, became something potentially even worse -- skippable. For example, 24 was worse than it's ever seen this year, but I was damned if I'd miss an episode just because I'd put so much investment into it already. But once VM switched its format from season-long mysteries to three-mysteries-in-the-season to, eventually, two-longer-mysteries-and-then-a-bunch-of-standalone-episodes, I really lost a lot of the need to watch. I saw the finale, but missed the previous two episodes leading up to it, and (here's the kicker) I didn't feel like I had missed a thing, plot-wise. I hated feeling this way about VM. Missing two episodes of Series One or Two (or even the first half of Three) would've set me back about ten years in terms of picking up clues to the big mystery or in character development. The only thing I missed were details about Veronica's love life. Jesus. If I wanted to watch Dawson's Creek, I'd watch Dawson's Creek. The saddest thing that can happen to a show is its loss of ambition. Alias, X-Files, Law & Order....there's a list as long as your arm of shows that just let their great concept devolve. The proposed idea for next season (it's four years later and Veronica is in the FBI) would've been interesting, but I didn't sign up for mysteries of the week. I don't want to watch Monk with Kristen Bell instead of Tony Shalhoub. Oddly enough, I would watch Wings with Bell in Shalhoub's role. And a bevy of hot, twentysomething actresses as Lowell, Roy, Fay, Brian, etc. I just think it would be funny.

In any case, the first season of Veronica Mars is one of the best seasons of TV I've ever seen. The first third of this season was just as awesome. Rent the DVDs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

Since I've paid less attention to this playoff than any other in recent memory, this will be short and sweet. The Ducks win in six.

Why?

-- For the third straight year, it's a Canadian team in the finals against a warm-weather American-based squad in a city that gives as much of a damn about hockey as the girl in the Hip's "Fireworks" song. Both the Oilers and Flames lost --- why should the Sens be any different?

-- The Ducks will break out the flying V. Sens coach Jack Reilly won't know how to handle it, and he'll react by sending his goons to attack Ducks' winger/cake-eater Adam Banks.

-- The Ducks are just a better team. People are suddenly on the Senators' bandwagon after seeing them put three good series together. Meanwhile, a lot of folks picked Anaheim before the playoffs began, they've looked good in making it to the finals, and they've been one of the strongest teams all throughout the regular season. Why change now?

-- Selanne is a good guy. He's one of the bigger names in the NHL to not have won a Cup. Let him have one. Also, Chris Pronger is...hmm. Well, Selanne, at least.

-- Because I cannot bear to hear my pal Dave brag about the Sens win a Cup for the next X years before the Leafs do. The Sens are 'his team' in the sense that he lives in Ottawa and often uses them in hockey video games. When pressed, he can't name more than five players on the team. Why should a bandwagon fan be rewarded in such a way?

-- Because I would hate to see my fellow Leaf fan friends be arrested for civil disobedience if Ottawa won. Seriously, they'd start a riot in downtown Toronto. You know who you are, IAN. I believe I posted last year about how one should root for the remaining Canadian team in the playoffs out of national pride, but...not when it's the Senators. Screw that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If I Was....

....in a major rock band that could play multiple dates in a big city, I'd schedule several shows, but at different venues around town. For example, in Toronto, schedule six shows, but play one each at Lee's Palace, the Molson Amphitheatre, the ACC, the Rogers Centre, BMO Field, and, say, the Guvernment.

.....a producer of Knocked Up, I would be kicking myself over my marketing choice. The current poster for the film is a big doofy picture of Seth Rogen with the phrase 'What if this guy got your pregnant?' on top and KNOCKED UP in big letters at the bottom. A far funnier idea would've been a big picture of a shocked Katherine Heigl, with only the KNOCKED UP remaining. It would be like the poster for 40-Year-Old Virgin, which was just that movie's title superimposed under that wonderfully earnest picture of Steve Carell. It's the kind of poster that the star would think "Heh heh, it's funny, I'm in a comedy," but the egotistical side of them is thinking, "God, if this movie isn't a hit, I'm having every copy of that poster burned." Also, I have this wonderful image in my head of Katherine Heigl's father, who I imagine as looking somewhat like George C. Scott, driving down the QEW into Toronto and past the big Queensway theatre with the giant posters hanging off the side. Mr. Heigl, who hasn't spoken to his daughter in a while and is unaware of her latest film, glances to his left, and sees this giant green image of his little Katherine with the words KNOCKED UP underneath. His left eye twiches involuntarily.

...in Toronto F.C.'s scheduling department, I'd move the Toronto/Los Angeles game to the Rogers Centre. Literally everyone I know who I tell I'm working for the MLS website has asked about Beckham and/or about tickets to the game. One of my neighbours in London is a huge Man U fan, and I think he would actually disown one of his sons if it meant getting a ticket to the game. TFC could sell that building out in a heartbeat. I know they're pushing BMO Field as their home, as well they should, but perhaps they could venture to the Rogers Centre as a once-a-year excursion like how the Alouettes occasionally play at the Big O. From what I've seen thus far, there is clearly enough enthusiasm for it to work. The TFC fans are friggin' nuts.

....married, I'd switch my Facebook status to 'single' just to see what would happen. An old pal of mine from high school recently did this as a practical joke, and the reaction was pretty funny. I love how Facebook has become so pervasive that people rely on it to learn even important information like this. Even one of his in-laws posted on his wall in shock.

....planning on doing this prank, I'd run it by my wife first. In my buddy's case, he didn't. In the words of the Joker, uh oh, he's in the doghouse now.

......Rafael Nadal, I'd introduce himself everywhere I went as "Hi, I'm Rafael Nadal, the greatest tennis player in the world," and then add 'on clay' quickly and in a quiet voice afterwards. It must be weird to be Nadal. He is the absolute best in the world at one certain thing within his sport, yet is unquestionably behind another in terms of overall precision. On a clay court, Nadal is virtually unbeatable. On grass, Roger Federer is virtually unbeatable. When they face off on grass, Federer almost always wins. When they meet on clay, Nadal almost always wins. It's as simple as that. Nadal is the insurmountable obstacle that stands between Federer and a French Open title, which is the one thing that Federer needs to genuinely be considered the best tennis player of all time. Yet Federer is the Mt. Everest in front of Nadal's quest to be #1 in the tennis world. Nadal is an outstanding player on grass, no question --- he's better on grass than Federer is on clay. But Federer is basically Jesus Christ with a racket on a grass court. Such a standoff is unusual to see in pro sports. It's like if Tiger Woods dominated golf, but there was one player who simply bested Tiger every time on, say, British links style courses. Of course, this comparison ignores the obvious point that Woods just might be the best in the world at links golf. If there's one record among the many that Tiger will break that I totally guarantee will happen, it's Harold Hilton's record of six British Open wins. Sorry, Harold.

...in charge of that building on the corner of Dundas and Yonge, I'd get a move on. You know that construction walkway you have to go through on the way to Sam the Record Man and the giant HMV store? I remember walking under that damn thing on a trip to Toronto in eleventh grade. That was nine years ago! (Editor's note: God, that was nine years ago, I'm so old). What the hell are they building there? Montreal's Olympic Stadium?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I Like Things That Are Great

The soccer game was a particularly joyous occasion today, since Toronto F.C. didn't just score their first goal, they also notched their first win in franchise history. While this is good news for the team, it's bad news for fans with creative chants. I laughed out loud at a chant early in Saturday's contest --- a surprisingly large group of fans started singing "All we are saying/Is give us a goal," to the tune of the John Lennon song. It was pretty clever. Next up, a citation of every man on the TFC roster to the tune of We Didn't Start The Fire.

If you're looking for a band name, you could do a lot worse than a two-word name with 'fight' as the second word. The possibilities are endless. Clown Fight. Duck Fight. Hamburger Fight. Ant Fight. Almost any noun can be used as the first word and it still sounds cool.

I've never asked her this, but it's a pretty solid bet that my friend Paige (originator of the 'Paige Six' blog that can be found on my blogroll) has been propositioned at one time or another with a phrase along the lines of, "Hey Paige Six, how about some Paige sex?"

I'm getting wider. Normally my weight gain has been limited to my gut and ass, but now I think that my bone structure is somehow morphing from a circle into a gradually expanding rhombus. Perhaps the Plastic Man picture on this blog is more accurate than I had thought. On the bright side, I may now be able to pull off the nickname of the Wall. What's more wide and solid than a wall? Nothing, that's what. It even rhymes --- I can call the blog, "Wolivision."

I was in Markham last night eating and bowling with my friend Joanne and her boyfriend. The evening got off to a late start after Joanne and I missed our turn off of Highway Seven and ended up driving through pretty much all of Markham before realizing our mistake. Despite my first name, I'd never actually been to Markham before. What a perfect place to indulge in narcissism. "Where do you live, Mark? "Oh, I live in Markham. Near the Markville Mall. On Mark Street. In Mark Manor. With my roommate, Marky Mark Wahlberg." Ooh wait, forget that Wall nickname. If I got wider, people would just call me Mark Wall-berg instead. Dammit. That's a bad vibration.

By the way, is Markham made up of one big shopping plaza, or just a thousand mini-plazas? It was hard to tell. Do people actually live there, or just shop there? Or is it a society entirely based on commerce, like the Ferengi in Star Trek?

Fighting through Toronto's traffic only to drive onto the Don Valley Parkway is like being punched in the face continually for a half-hour, and then suddenly getting a ten-minute back massage from Yunjin Kim. I love the DVP. I legitimately think it's the most scenic part of the city. The rolling hills, the artistically-arranged concrete overpasses, the glorious wide lanes. It makes me feel like I'm in Los Angeles.

I haven't forgotten about you, Lakeshore Boulevard! You're also awesome. I'm happy that my house is relatively near the intersection of Lakeshore and the DVP. It's like sharing a manger next to Jesus.

The announcers for the Professional Poker Tour sound exactly alike. It makes for an unsettling broadcast. It's like listening to Vin Scully call a Dodgers game by himself, but if Vin had schizophrenia. Vin should do this for a game, just for the hell of it. They're not going to fire him.

If I worked for Tostitos, I would totally sponsor the PPT or other professional poker tournaments. Whenever I watch poker, I get an unbearable urge to eat chips. Think about it -- every other sentence on one of those shows is, "He's reaching for chips," "He's put half his chips into the pot," "Chris just added 50,000 chips to his stack." It's subliminal advertising at its most insidious. By the end of the show, I'd walk over my own mother for a bag of chips (p.s. happy mother's day, Mom! I just admitted I'd sell you out for snack food!) This kind of viral marketing doesn't work for other sports. You'll never see the Transylvania tourism board sponsoring a baseball game. Or a summer theatre production of a Midsummer Night's Dream sponsoring a hockey game. In the latter case, the summer theatre group probably has a better promotional system than the NHL does anyway.

Not to brag or anything, but remember last year when I noted that the Blue Jays were 42-24 when I was in the press box for their games and 41-50 when I wasn't? Just look at this season. The Curse of the Polibino has spread to not just the team's record, but their general health and well-being. Back injuries, arm injuries, appendicitis --- all that's missing is a player to miss a game with scurvy. And, it should be noted, Toronto's record this season with me in attendance; 1-0. Without me: 14-21. I'm just saying. J.P. Ricciardi, if you're reading this (and I can pretty much guarantee you're not), you're a stat guy. You find stats that other teams overlook in order to sign players, ala the Moneyball philosophy. These win shares cannot be ignored. And I can be had for less than a quarter of what you're paying Victor Zambrano.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bookmarks (or, Markbooks)

Pro athlete autobiographies are almost uniformly terrible. I used to devour them when I was younger, which is why I'm terrified to ever read Gretzky's auto with Rick Reilly and Reggie Jackson's auto with Mike Lupica again now, since I'm afraid I'll hate them and thus my memory of my two favourite autos by a legit athlete (Mick Foley's book is in a different category) will be tarnished.

After spending a year as a sportswriter, I can see why this is so. Pro athletes, god bless 'em, are not the most colourful speakers in the world. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean they're unintelligent or unable to put two words together. Someone like, say, Gregg Zaun is a very colourful and entertaining speaker, and he's a fun guy to listen to tell a story. But that doesn't necessarily mean this skill can be translated to the written word, or even through a ghostwriter.

Phil Mickelson's One Magical Sunday (But Winning Isn't Everything) is your standard athlete biography. He and ghostwriter Donald T. Phillips tried to frame the story in an interesting way --- eighteen chapters, with a story from Phil's life tied to each hole he played in the final round of the 2004 Masters (which, spoiler alert, he won). Unfortunately, the gimmick varies wildly. For example, Phil skips numerous years in his life. It goes basically from childhood to how he meets his wife to suddenly he's on the PGA Tour, and then it's years later and he's suddenly facing off with Payne Stewart on the last hole of the 1999 U.S. Open. I actually would've liked to have read more about his earlier years in the game, since Phil is one of the most accomplished amateur golfers in recent times, and it would've been interesting to hear how he dealt with the pressure of being 'the next great golfer.' He even glossed over the most notable part of his career, which was that he went all those years as the best player without a major championship.

However, we did get about eight chapters of Phil and his kids. Blah. I know he loves his kids and takes off half the year to spend time with them, but if I wanted to read Bill Cosby's Fatherhood, I think my dad has it somewhere in the basement (note: this explains why he referred to me only as Theo between the years of 1990 and 1992). If I'm reading about a professional golfer, I kind of want to hear about the golf. The first mistake was getting this Phillips guy as the ghostwriter. Phillips is best known for writing motivational self-help books, so perhaps biographies aren't his strong suit.

Also, and I'm surprised it's taken me this long to get to this, but I can't stand Phil Mickelson. He just seems like a real phoney. He always has that goofy smile on his face. He makes all these passive-aggressive comments (i.e. that time he criticized Tiger's equipment, or about how he wished he was the first lefty to win the Masters instead of Mike Weir) that reveal his inner douchebagginess. Everyone in my family also hates him, which led to a funny scene at last year's U.S. Open. The family was all over for a father's day BBQ, and we had the Open on. Phil starts to choke it up on the last hole, and so my entire family started just ripping him for ten minutes straight. Even my 87-year-old grandmother (who particularly dislikes Phil for that Weir comment) got in on the act. Family bonding at its finest.

The point is, if I'm going to read a book about a guy I'm not even a fan of to begin with, it'd better be a good book. Part of the reason I liked the Reggie Jackson bio so much is that it gave me a different view of the guy who I thought was just a publicity hound. But Phil's book just reinforced the fact that he's an ass. There are not one, but TWO different stories in this book about how "he's such a joker!" Nobody who ever says they're funny is actually funny. Case in point, the Joker. Thinks he's hilarious. Isn't.

So thumbs down to Phil's book. I'm giving up on the autobiographies of athletes and just sticking to biographies by real writers. The late David Halberstam was a master at covering athletes and really getting inside their heads. I'd suggest that he write a book about Phil, but....well, he's dead. I guess that makes him a GHOSTwriter! Ha ha! I'm such a joker!

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Gregory Macdonald's mystery novels are interesting because they aren't really that mysterious. I think of the 7-8 of his novels I've read, I've figured out the solution in about half of them, including Fletch And The Widow Bradley. Oftentimes, though, Macdonald isn't trying to write a whodunit. His books are excuses to write dialogue and invent funny characters, and thus the lack of a real page-turning mystery can be excused because Macdonald writes some of the best dialogue around.

In this book, the plot is just a little 'too' obvious to work, however. I don't give away any spoilers, but if you just think outside the box a little, it's plain to see. There is one sentence in particular mid-book where I was like, 'Oh, here's the solution,' and that lessened my enjoyment a little. The dialogue and characters were still as witty as ever, but the final denouement is kind of dark, to say the least. Poor ol' Fletch usually gets the better of everyone, but in this case, he decidedly does not. It's kind of a downer. "Hey, follow along with this lovable rapscallion of a character! Oh wait, he gets his ass kicked in the end! Sorry!"

The Fletch series was co-opted by Chevy Chase's movies in the public domain, which I think is weird casting since I don't see Chase as Fletch at all. I like to play the 'who would this character be played by in a movie' game when I'm reading, and Fletch is one of those characters who I'm eternally stuck on. Kevin Smith has reportedly long wanted to do a Fletch movie with Jason Lee in the lead, which would've been interesting but still not quite right. I think the closest one I've ever thought fit was another fictional character --- Jack Burns in John Irving's "Until I Found You." I think Jack could've pulled it off. Unfortunately, a double-literary crossover is unlikely to happen, since now there's the problem of who would play Jack Burns playing Fletch. Someone get Charlie Kauffman on this ASAP.

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I read two whole chapters of Sue Grafton's "P is for Peril" before I realized I'd already read it. Oops. Got my letters mixed up. Either I'm an idiot or else Sue Grafton needs to shake up the format a little bit.

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Chris "Mad Dog" Russo is one half of New York sports radio's legendary Mike And The Mad Dog team. Their daily show is five hours long, which blows my mind. I had enough trouble filling two hours once a week on CHRW, and that was even with one of the legendary talkers of all time (Dave Lee) as my radio partner. I couldn't imagine doing five hours a day. I'm forced to conclude that Russo is just much, much better at radio broadcasting than I am. Whew. That felt good to admit. Next up, a post about how Bob Vila is probably a better handyman than I.

Russo's The Mad Dog Hall of Fame: The Ultimate Top-Ten Rankings Of The Best in Sports is the kind of dumb book I like (see: my Listamania posts). It's Russo's personal top ten rankings of who he feels are the best in sports. Top 10 best football players, baseball players, best venues, best front office people, you name it. It's an enjoyable read, and good for debate amongst friends since it inevitably leads to a discussion of their own personal top tens.

For example, Russo's list of the top ten best baseball players of all time includes Mariano Rivera at #10. Mariano Rivera. Seriously. A list of top 10 closers ever, Rivera should be one or two. I could even maybe listen to a case for Rivera on a list of the top 10 pitchers ever. But the top ten baseball players, EVER? I think I even registered my disgust at this in a previous blog post. Is Mariano Rivera really better than, like, Hank Aaron? Or Cy Young? I think not. The weird thing is, Russo isn't even a Yankees fan, so he's not biased like your usual New York media person.

Another minor beef I had with the book is that he had separate categories for top tens in baseball, pro football, college football and pro and college basketball. Then he has a 'top ten athletes in other sports' list where he lumps together the likes of Muhammad Ali, Gretzky, Tiger Woods, Rod Laver, etc. Seems lazy to me. If you don't know enough of a sport, just make it a top five.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Housing Search '07

UNO
The search could've been over before it started. A nice little student apartment on College Street, literally across the street from (at least part of the sprawling campus of) U of T. There were a few issues, like a lack of a parking spot and the fact that I'd have to move my own bed into the room, but other than that, things looked good. I said I'd wait on it since I had other places to look at, and....then waited about a week while other places I was going to look at either didn't get back to my e-mails or replied to me that the rooms had already been taken. I guess I should specify it was the renters who were doing this, not the places themselves. It's not Amityville.

So, I called up Uno to confirm that the place was still available, and....it wasn't. My fault for taking a week to lollygag around. However, the subletter gave me the name of another friend of hers who was looking to sublet their place. To be continued....

DOS
To aid me in my search, I decided to use the internet for more than just blogging and poker. I created a troika of Facebook groups to ask my friends if they knew of anyone looking to sublet for the summer, or if they themselves were looking to rid themselves of my place. An old friend of mine from high school contacted me to say that he had recently moved out of Toronto for a job, and still had three months on his apartment that was now sitting unused. So he dropped by to give me the key so I could go have a look.

Problem #1, and really, the only problem. The place was in North York. It took an hour to drive from downtown, and by that time, I had already made up my mind that the place would probably not be worth it. Not that the apartment wasn't perfectly livable, however. I was so beat from the drive that I ended up falling asleep on the couch in it for about an hour. So no go on the apartment, but man, was that couch ever comfortable.

TRES
If you ever go to Toronto, avoid fucking Mutual Street. What a directional nightmare. It starts as a one-way street off of Carlton (with the one-way pointing towards the street, so yo can't turn onto it), then morphs into a regular two-lane road, and then morphs into a one-way street going in the opposite direction into Dundas (again, with the opposite route facing Dundas, so people can't turn right from the major road). I mean, what the hell?! Who were the ad wizards who came up with this one? It was like I was going to the nexus of the universe.

That aside, it was a nice little street. The place was a townhouse, very posh, and unfortunately a couple of hundred bucks out of my price range. Also, it had a few odd rules, such as I could use only certain appliances in the kitchen. Huh? So if I wanted to use, say, the blender, would that computer screen of Wayne Knight from Jurassic Park suddenly appear and start saying, "Ah-ah-ah"?

The other big drawing point was that this place was just a block away from Maple Leaf Gardens. It cannot be underestimated how cool that would've been.

QUATORZE
This is a multiple entry, made up of the weirdest places I saw.

First, the one in Little India. It was a rented room in a woman's house. I asked my general questions, including one about what the neighbourhood was like safety-wise. She looks me dead in the eye and says there are no locks on her doors. At first I thought she misunderstood and meant the door to the rented room had no locks, but no, she meant her whole house. She said that she had never had any problems with crime, and thus she was putting my safety along with the safety of herself and her family. It was at this point I began making sure I was in colour and hadn't stepped into the world of Pleasantville.

Second, the junkie guy. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you wanted to draw a picture of a stereotypical heroin addict, here was your guy. I could've stayed with him for four months in his flophouse for the low low price of $900 per month! One guess as to what $800 of that rent would've gone towards.

Third, the ghosts. It was a little house near Bloor/Ossington, and according to the Craigslist ad, it seemed to have just about everything I was looking for. Unfortunately, I still hadn't found what I was looking for. Will this post be just more and more U2 jokes? Maybe you should 'stay' to find out. God, I'm unfunny. Anyway, the people weren't home. I knocked both front door and back, called the number they left, and the following day sent a questioning e-mail that still hasn't been responded to. My guess? Alien abduction.

Fourth, the creep pit. A house of five rooms, all filled by mustached middle-aged men. The front room featured a giant aquarium filled with an equally giant eel. The place was darkly lit and wallpapered in gray. On the way out, I'm pretty sure I drove past the To Catch A Predator camera truck.

HELLO, HELLO
The place was small. Like, Japanese apartment small. Two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a front closet and....that's it. The bedroom was large enough to accomodate a TV, shelves, etc. so it wouldn't have been too cramped. It just occurred to me that this would've been a great pickup opportunity had I been on a date. "Here's that coffee. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we'll have to drink it in my bedroom. Bow chicka bow bow." And then I'd get coffee thrown in my face.

Fortunately, the apartment was otherwise good enough that size didn't matter. It was right next to a nice little street full of bistros and bookshops, a block away from the hospital (the quicker to treat my coffee-in-face related injuries) and was right on the edge of the Ryerson student ghetto and the downtown core. The subletter was the friend of Uno's, so I was now officially talking to the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who had told me about Uno in the first place. Six degrees indeed. This apartment was now officially my backup place, to be used if I didn't find a better option....which I did. Huh.

I'M AT A PLACE CALLED VERTIGO
Ok, I'm not calling my new place Vertigo in the manner of Scarlett O'Hara and Tara. I'm not sure my roommates would appreciate it. I wouldn't want to get on their bad side, since they drastically outnumber me. FIVE roommates, one for every point on a pentagon.

Still, the place is nice. I'm in the basement, which means I've got some privacy, and the house has all the amenities --- parking, full kitchen, two bathrooms, TV, AC, internet, the works. If the Mutual Street place was an A+, this one was an A, with the bonus that it was much cheaper rent. I'm a bit removed from downtown out in Corktown, but I'm right next to the Don, so I can make my way to the CNE for work with ease.

So thus ends the housing search. I'm now officially at Torontonian until the start of September, or maybe longer if I can get my lease extended.

The point of this post is not to brag, but to test a theory. I fully expect someone I know to post a reply saying, "Hey man, I didn't know you were looking for a place! My rich uncle is going to Switzerland for the year, and he has an apartment at the top of the Four Seasons that he's dying to lease out. It's only a few hundred square feet, but the jacuzzi and gold-plated shower make up for it! The rent was pretty pricey, but we're such good pals that I'm sure he would've let you have it for free. But, if you already have a place, that's cool."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Listamania IV

The Top Ten Spike Jonze Music Videos (That I Know Of)


10. Buddy Holly (Weezer)
Well, it's on here, but rather begrudgingly. It's like how people feel obliged to include Romeo & Juliet as one of Shakespeare's top plays just because it's so famous, when the Bard really did a lot of better stuff. Sure, it's a cool idea and whatnot, but this is one of those videos that seems more dated the further away we get from it. Along those same lines, Jonze's famous video for Sabotage isn't even on the list, so I'll spare the suspense right now. Call it the Forrest Gump syndrome --- melding old and modern footage is so commonplace nowadays and people can whip it up on their iMacs. Plus, I think Arrested Development now holds the record for the most Happy Days nostalgia.




9. Crush With Eyeliner (R.E.M.)
Here's an interesting concept: have a group of Japanese teenagers lip-sync to the music and play off of ethnic stereotypes since these guys don't look like 'real' rock stars. The added joke is that R.E.M. are four of the least rock star-looking guys of all time. By the way, Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze used to be a couple. I wonder if she got the idea to explore Japanese youth culture from this video? Yet another source she ripped off Lost In Translation from.




8. It's Oh So Quiet (Bjork)
Spoiler alert: If I ever make a listamania about the top ten most bizarre careers in music, Bjork will have a high ranking. I've always had a nagging feeling that Bjork is putting us all on, and she's actually from Decatur, Illinois or something and talks like Roseanne in real life.

Presuming my theory is incorrect, however, is there any crazier possible musician-director combination than Bjork and Jonze? This video is just a lot of fun. An elaborate song and dance number can make any video worthwhile.




7. Y Control (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
This video is about as messed up as it gets. All it needs is Maggie Simpson taking out her pacifier and telling us that this is indeed a disturbing universe. Why is it on the list? Well, it has a countdown of its own, so obviously it deserves a ranking. Second, that scene with the little girl chopping off that other kid's hand made me laugh out loud (I'm a weird person). You might think Karen O's ridiculously short skirt appeals to my shallower side, but this doesn't do it for me. A woman in a short skirt isn't in and of itself attractive if the woman isn't bringing much to the table to begin with. See: all six seasons of Ally McBeal.




6. Drop (The Pharcyde)
The Pharcyde could release this video tomorrow, and it would still seem just as fresh and creative. Moreover, it would surprise a lot of people since I'm not sure the Pharcyde ever actually existed. Go ahead, name one other song of theirs without consulting Google first. So there!




5. Elektrobank (Chemical Brothers)
Here's something weird for you. The gymnast in the video? It's Sofia friggin' Coppola. She and Jonze were dating at the same, and thus she ended up cast as the heroic Kerri Strug-esque gymnast conquering Mother Russia. It's pretty clear she doesn't actually do her own stunts in the video, however, and thus my search for an actual talent that Sofia Coppola possesses continues.

Remember back around 1997 when electronic music was supposed to be the next big thing in rock, and bands like the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy were going to dominate the charts? Uh, yeah. On the bright side, the brief electronica era at least provided some awesome music videos. Since the music was so repetitive, the videos demanded interesting imagery and/or plots to keep people interested. The videos were the actual attraction, and the music basically just served as the score.

You can mark Jonze as a great director because a) he made rhythmic gymnastics seem interesting and b) he somehow makes Sofia's nose seem smaller than it does today. That is arguably the most impressive technical achievement of his career.




4. Electrolite (R.E.M.)
I can't think of R.E.M. without the phrase 'Hey! Remember the 90's?!' popping up in my head, but I'll continue. Jonze can't take full credit here, as it was co-directed by some guy named Peter Care. Nonetheless, this video contains enough crazy shit and creative ideas for about twelve videos. I never realized it before, but R.E.M. ex-drummer Bill Berry can be added to my list of People Who Look Like My Pal Matt Larkin, along with Noel Gallagher.

1997 marked a turning point in Jonze's video directing career. Before that year, his videos were notable for technical achievement. After videos like this one and Da Funk, he took a decided turn towards the 'what the hell?' concept. It was probably a smart move, given that a video like Buddy Holly seems blase by today's standards.

My list of the top ten Peter Care videos will be the topic of Listamania MMMMCMXCVIII.




3. Weapon of Choice (Fatboy Slim)
The brilliance of the Airplane! and Naked Gun films is in the casting. Modern fans may not realize this, but at the time of the original Airplane, Leslie Nielsen was known as a dramatic actor. Same with the likes of Robert Stack and George Kennedy. Their serious images made the jokes all the funnier, since they were able to spoof themselves as well as the gene at the same time. To put it in a modern context, imagine a Naked Gun-style comedy starring Ben Kingsley, Lawrence Tierney and the guy who plays Bill Buchanan on 24. I think I'd pay $100 for a ticket to that movie.

This is my roundabout way of discussing Christopher Walken's career arc. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where Walken turned from serious character actor into caricature (but a self-aware caricature, which makes it somehow even more awesome). The obvious turning point is his hosting gig on SNL in 2000 that featured the immortal 'More Cowbell' skit and (in my opinion) the even funnier Census sketch with Tim Meadows. But remember, he was the villain in Wayne's World II seven years prior, and his legendary monologue in Pulp Fiction was delivered in 1994. And he had been hosting SNL for years even prior to 1993. And it wasn't until the mid-90's that the Christopher Walken impression became a staple of b-list comedians. Seriously, any time Kevin Pollak or Jay Mohr are on a late-night talk show, there is a better than 80% chance they'll be asked to bust out the Walken.

This video clearly takes some inspiration from Walken's SNL hosting gigs, as Walken begins each of his appearances with a song and dance routine in the opening monologue. Walken began his career as a dancer in musical theatre, and thus has always had a soft spot for the soft shoe. Ergo, it's only fitting that he be featured in this video. I have no doubt that Walken did all of the actual dancing, and the stunt double was just used for the flying scenes. Unless Christopher Walken can fly, which would be not unexpected. There is a very short list of celebrities who could've taken Walken's place in this video and been just as awesome. Danny Trejo is one. Al Pacino is another. Maybe Warren Beatty, but he's been in enough comedies that the idea of him being funny isn't a totally foreign concept.

If I could travel back in time to any point in human history, it would be to the meeting when Jonze pitched this concept to Walken.
Jonze: So, you're going to be dancing around this empty hotel lobby.
Walken: Can I. Choreograph my own. Dancing?
Jonze: Yeah! Definitely!
Walken: You know. I used to be a dancer in. My early days. In. Theatre.
Jonze: That's awesome!
Walken: Wowie zowie!




2. Da Funk (Daft Punk)
MTV and MuchMusic have degraded to the point that it's much harder for a band to break through with a video, instead of a song. So many bands break via a hit single that gets popular due to iTunes that the idea of a song breaking on MTV due to a clever video seems almost quaint nowadays. Rather than let this degenerate into the 339, 268, 256th post in internet history about how modern-day music video channels suck, let me instead point out that nobody from my generation will ever forget Da Funk. Or, as it's perhaps better known as, 'the dog video.'

As I mentioned earlier with Elektrobank, electronica led to a lot of story-form music videos, and this one was basically a short film. Charles the dog is the epitome of controversy. On the one hand, you felt sorry for the poor guy --- he's on crutches, he has the face of a dog, he's clearly had a few bad breaks in life. You want him to get together with that girl. But then again, like any tragic hero, he has a fatal flaw. He cannot turn down the music on his boombox. Shakespeare himself couldn't have written a more bittersweet love story. In fact, the deleted act from Merchant of Venice where Shylock can't turn down his lute is just a horribly written collection of scenes altogether. Ultimately, while we sympathize with Charles, we can't fully root for him. Despite all his qualities, he is still at his core one of those fucking jackasses who just won't turn their music down in public. Those people are loathsome.

Daft Punk liked the characters so much they brought them back in the self-directed video for their song Fresh (it's also up on YouTube). Daft Punk, by the way, are one of the most lovably eccentric bands out there. These guys go to comical lengths to hide their identities. They've appeared for interviews with their faces covered in piercings, covered in black hoods or wearing elaborate robot helmets. In fact, for a brief time their gimmick was that they actually were robots, sort of like how the White Stripes' gimmick was that they were siblings or that Nirvana's gimmick was that they were talented.




1. Praise You (Fatboy Slim)
Well, this pretty clearly has to be number one. Back in high school, we had one of those MuchMusic video dances replete with smoke machines and video walls, and I managed to match Jonze's entire routine by following along with the video as it played on the big screen. In a related story, I went to these dances alone. And left alone.

*cough*

These facts have to be common knowledge by now, but I'll repeat them for posterity. Yes, that is Fatboy Slim as the guy who pokes his head into the frame in the last scene. Yes, that actually is Spike Jonze himself as the leader of the dance troupe. No, they're not an actual dance troupe, it's Jonze and some friends of his who choreographed a routine. Yes, it was shot in front of an actual theatre, so all of the reactions from the people in line are real.